Rusty Strait | Senior Reporter
In the 100th year of the Ramona Pageant, the reason we even have it finally gets an award that every superstar gets. The Palm Springs Walk of Fame has found a place for Helen Hunt Jackson, a lady who did more than anyone to point out the horrible way the go-westers treated the natives by so-called settlers. Her book “Ramona” is still in print and is up there with the best sellers of all time. It is undoubtedly time she was given this honor. No movie star ever did so much for the original occupants of the West.
Helen Hunt Jackson dedicated her life to the rights of Native Americans. She used her pen in “Ramona” and “A Century of Dishonor” to shine a spotlight to shame whites and the Priests who treated them like slaves. She begged the President to read her words to no avail. She died trying.
The Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce green-lighted the staff and even made an exception, and let the nomination pass after the cut-off date because of the historical importance of Helen Hunt Jackson and the Ramona Pageant. She already has the distinction of being the first woman writer in California to be honored with a Literary Landmark housed in the Hemet Public Library. A second literary landmark for her will be unveiled at the Ramona Bowl in April to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Ramona Pageant.
The following notations about the life of Helen Hunt Jackson are for the public’s info and education:
1. Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885) died decades before Palm Springs was incorporated. She met with Chief Standing Bear of the Ponca Indian Tribe when he asked her and her peers of well-known authors to help the Poncas because they were being thrown off their land. She was infuriated when she discovered it was not an isolated case. Native Americans were being kicked off their homelands across the country by greedy White Europeans as they devoured every bit of land in their paths. Her pleas to the Government to do something fell on deaf ears. Throughout California, especially in Hemet and San Jacinto, these names (Soboba and Pachanga) inspired by her book are found.
2. In 1921, the Hemet Chamber of Commerce decided to create a play based on the book “Ramona.” Mr. Holme and some Chamber members selected a location with amazing acoustic properties in the hills south of Hemet. Hundreds of local citizens became the cast for the first performance of Ramona in April of 1923. Today it has grown into a 5,500-seat amphitheater.
3. Ramona Is California’s official Outdoor Play and the nation’s longest outdoor play. Helen Hunt Jackson is currently honored in the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame and has been nominated (in honor of the Ramona Sentinel) to be considered for the National Women’s Hall of Fame. At a time when women could not own property or even vote, Helen Hunt Jackson was an inspirational voice for human dignity and equal rights. She is certainly deserving of a literary star in The Palm Springs Walk of Stars.
4. Wouldn’t it be additional if the local tribes contributed $10,000 to cover the cost of the star and the party/reception to follow? The tribal nations’ names can then be carved into the Star panel at the base of the star and serve as a part of California history and recognition of all she did to help them. Just sayin’
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